Crafting Utopias


I feel I started to gain a better understanding of relational aesthetics as a kind of art production that considers interhuman exchange an aesthetic object, and Utopia as a proposition in space and time that allows this exchange by operating outside of the social and political structures. The impractical nature of utopia in the real world is what makes it appealing for me. As Liam Gillick writes, “Utopian is the term that refers to the desire for something that is impractical, because it levels and implies harmony, while sidestepping the generalised, lurching linearity of the dominant system.”

Since utopia is something different from our own context, it is a state that we never get to achieve completely: the social context keeps changing, so the ideas of utopia constantly change as well. It is not a fixed ideal, not even a physical object or place. It is a product of our imagination and desires, and that is why it becomes such an interesting topic for art. By building moments and temporary spaces for utopia, we are opening a window to a parallel world, opening discussion and thought about our possible futures as a society, or even making people connect with each other in a different way.

During the collaboration meeting with my group, we discussed a lot about the constant desire of human beings to find a utopia our life, as if it was something that we can find ‘out there’ in in the physical space instead of trying to make it real in our minds and our actions in society. This was very important for me as a discussion, as I understood that a utopia doesn’t always need a specific space to work -although it can make use of the elements in the spatial context. Actions and participation, on the other hand, do make a difference in the way people understand and relate to the piece.

We also talked about the idea of utopia as something that is ideal because it can’t operate in our current world, and we became particularly interested in the opposition to modern capitalism as a dominant economic and political system. Crafting a space for this opposition can become impractical in real life, even if it makes sense in theory and principle. This kind of tension is very attractive, and I think it is one of the elements that can make a piece of relational art have a meaning in the participant’s imagination as a framework for emancipation.

By creating pieces for relational art, we are trying to create instances that generate behaviors and thoughts, which may or may not necessarily be the ones that we expect. However, the point for me is really to take the risk and make it happen. In the documentation video for Utopia Station, at the Venice Biennale 2003, Yoko Ono point out an interesting and inspiring opinion about this: ”I think doing it is the most important, instead of thinking ‘you think this is going to influence? You think this is a waste of time? Don’t think, just do it!”


Image: Ingrid Book / Carina Hedén

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